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Caring for Your Spouse with Mental Illness

Employee Mental Health

About 14 percent of the people suffer from a mental illness and that person could be your life partner. Living with someone with mental illness can be draining and confusing as its certainly not an easy feat. Different domains of a relationship like communication, intimacy and relationship and family dynamics may get impacted due to the illness. The process of adjusting to and accepting the changes in your relationship, and creating a new routine may take some time. This can also lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness as you may feel like you don’t know how to support your spouse. 

There are a Few Steps You Can to Support Your Spouse Better

  • Psycho-educating yourself from reliable sources to understand your spouse’s illness better. Many symptoms of your spouse’s illness may not be outwardly apparent but still may pose severe challenges in their daily life. Educating yourself about the nature of the illness and how it impacts an individual would help you understand your spouse’s personal experiences better. This would also make it easier for you to understand how to deal with the challenges posed by the illness.
  • It’s crucial to help your spouse understand that you love them and are there for them. You can support them by encouraging them to express their thoughts and feelings, and validating their experiences. Mental illnesses impact individuals differently, hence, actively listening to what your spouse is sharing would help you understand their perspectives. Thus being a good listener is one of the best things you can do to help them.
  • You can encourage them to express their needs and you can support them by discussing treatment options like therapy, medication and lifestyle modifications. This can also include scheduling and accompanying them to their appointments and reminding them to take their medication. You can help them form a routine that is comfortable for them and includes small and achievable goals, their hobbies and sufficient time for socialization.
  • It is helpful to keep in mind that persons with mental illnesses are capable of leading rich, happy lives. Partner’s attitude and behaviour can make an important contribution. Hence it’s helpful to maintain a positive and an accepting attitude towards your spouse. This can also include holding realistic expectations for your spouse in terms of recovery. 
  • It’s important to continue focusing on your relationship with your spouse the way you would in the absence of illness. This can be done by continuing to spend quality time together, planning fun day outs and expressing your love and admiration for one another. Having open and caring communication channels open can help your spouse express their concerns.

One of the most important ways by which you can support your spouse is by taking good care of yourself. This is because illnesses impact not just the individual dealing with the illness, but also the people around them, specially the primary caregiver, who in a lot of cases are the partner.

The primary caregiver, the partner, may also experience stress and burden since the process of caregiving can often be rigorous. This can lead to negative impact on your physical (migraines, loss of appetite, insomnia, excessive fatigue), psychological (symptoms of anxiety and depression, guilt, fear, confusion) and social health (social withdrawal), thereby decreasing quality of life.

Studies have shown increased distress negatively impacts the caregiving process hence if you make efforts to support your own physical and mental wellbeing, you’ll be better able to support your spouse. Some self-care techniques you can incorporate in your daily life are-

  • Maintaining a sleep routine and practicing good sleep hygiene. 
  • Staying physically active 
  • Nourishing your body through a healthy and wholesome diet
  • Spending quality time with friends and loved ones
  • Making time to do activities you enjoy to keep your stress levels in check.
  • Journaling about your thoughts and feelings
  • Practicing mindfulness meditation 
  • Using techniques like progressive muscle relaxation to stay in touch with your body and manage stress.

You can also identify sources of support. Sources of support can be trusted friends or family who you can reach out to in times of need and can help ease your responsibilities. Talking to others going through similar experiences as you can also help. Virtual and in person support groups can help you meet others, individuals with family members with mental illnesses, experiencing similar challenges as you.

Professional mental health support can also help you deal with the stressors that may arise as a result of caregiving and can help you understand ways to better care for your loved one. Since increased distress negatively impacts the process of caregiving, it is important to seek the help of mental health professionals who can help you take care of your own mental health.

We at Samvedna Care recognize the distress faced by caregivers and provide services for caregiver wellbeing. These services include caregiver counselling, caregiver burden assessment and support group meetings. Caregiver counselling helps address concerns about communication, management of activities of daily living and difficult behaviors. 

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